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Melvins at The Ritz: Ordinary Weirdos Return to SJ

In Music
DEAR ABBIES: Though their new album pays homage to baseball with a cover of ‘Take Me Out 
to the Ballgame,’ Melvins frontman, Buzz Osborne insists his band is ‘Abby Normal.’

DEAR ABBIES: Though their new album pays homage to baseball with a cover of ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’ Melvins frontman, Buzz Osborne insists his band is ‘Abby Normal.’

Buzz Osborne swears that he isn’t an ordinary dude, but talking to him on the phone it would be easy to mistake him as such. Sure, the guy sounds a bit high strung; but not tweaker high strung—more like quirky science professor after too many cups of coffee.

In fact, after more than 30 minutes in conversation with the man better known as King Buzzo, the frizzy-haired frontman of Melvins—those highly experimental, super-sludgy, Nirvana-influencing weirdos—one gets the distinct impression that the co-founder of one of Generation-X’s most influential, and ostensibly out-there acts, might actually be the band’s eccentric lawyer. He talks fast and authoritatively and seems well versed in the finer details of artist management, booking and promoting tours and the history of rock & roll.

But yes. This is Buzzo. And though he admits to leading “a relatively conservative life,” he is adamant that there is nothing run-of-the-mill about him, or his band.

“We’re Abby Normal,” Osborne quips, borrowing a joke from the Mel Brooks creature feature spoof, Young Frankenstein.

Indeed. Since 1983, Osborne and Co. have released 21 full-length studio records, seven live albums and six EPs—many of them boundary pushing, some of them trendsetting, and all of them far from anything anybody might consider “mainstream.”

He knows so much about the business side of his trade because Melvins only briefly worked with a manager and have been booking their own tours since the ’90s. And if he sounds like a fast-talking attorney, it’s because he only seeks legal counsel when it’s absolutely necessary, like when he and his band inked a deal with Atlantic Records, back at the height of Washington’s grunge wave—without the help of a manager to sweet talk the label’s A&R team.

“I don’t take orders very well from people,” he says, explaining why he prefers to do everything himself.

But that doesn’t mean Buzzo is a Billy Corgan-esque control freak. While he admits that he’s played bass on plenty of Melvins albums, on the band’s forthcoming LP, Osborne welcomed collaborators—specifically those who specialized in playing four strings at a time.

Basses Loaded, due out June 3 on Mike Patton’s label, Ipecac, features a rotating cast of bassists, including Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, Steve McDonald from Redd Kross, the Butthole Surfers’ J.D. Pinkus, Jared Warren of Big Business and Trevor Dunn of both Mr. Bungle and Fantomas. On a few tracks Crover even puts down his sticks and picks up the bass, while the Melvins’ original drummer, Mike Dillard, takes a seat at the kit.

The album’s title serves not only as a pun, but as an acknowledgement of Osborne and Crover’s interest in baseball. A recent press release detailing the new album, notes the two are “often spotted at games across the country” and that the record features a cover of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

These facts, combined with Osborne’s apparent pride in his happy and stable marriage—and the fact that he does not flinch at my mentioning once spotting him at Disneyland—might, once again, lead one to conclude he is some kind of old-fashioned gentleman. But the way Osborne tells it, it’s the opposite, especially when it comes to music.

“I’m not a ‘good old days’ type of guy,” he says. “I kind of feel like, ‘What have you done lately?’” Osborne feels a duty to push the limits of his craft. “I believe my job is to write songs and play music and be an entertainer and be an artist. And I work at it as hard as anybody works at any job.”

It just so happens, that in Osborne’s line of work, weirdness is often rewarded.

“I let my weirdness come out in my music,” he says. And considering that the band are nearing 40 official releases in a little over 30 years of performing together, it all starts to make sense. King Buzzo’s life is a lot like a devil’s food cake with white frosting. Through Melvins, he gets to discharge his dark and sludgy thoughts without disturbing the vanilla facade. In this way, it seems, Osborne is able to have his cake and eat it, too.

Sat, 8pm, $15-$20
The Ritz, San Jose

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